Tech neck, also referred to as text neck, is a new name for an old issue — neck pain that’s caused by repetitive strain and injury to the muscles and other tissue structures of the cervical spine.
The ever-evolving screen technology we’ve come to love and even rely on lies at the root of tech neck, hence the nickname.
John S. Michels, MD, is a board-certified pain management physician with a busy practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. He is an award-winning specialist with a previous career in the NFL whose medical expertise and commitment to patient-first care earns him high marks with sports professionals, other physicians, and the patients he treats.
Dr. Michels is often tasked with solving the issue of neck pain that’s related to screen technology and is happy to offer information about the cause as well as the treatments available for tech neck.
What does the weight of my head have to do with tech neck?
The average adult head weighs 10-12 pounds, which is supported by the bony structures, muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the neck. But when you tilt your head forward and look down, which is the common posture for texting, the weight of your head places 50-60 pounds of force on the neck.
Your neck simply isn’t built to withstand that type of force for prolonged periods. The result is muscular and ligamentous strain and other structural issues that cause the symptoms associated with tech neck.
What are the symptoms of tech neck?
Symptoms related to tech neck are typically mild in the initial phases and increase as the condition advances. The most frequently reported symptoms include:
- Generalized aching discomfort in the lower neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Sharp, stabbing pain that’s intense and localized in one spot
- Reduced mobility or stiffness in the neck, upper back, and shoulders
- Increased pain when tilting the head forward and looking down to text
- Jaw pain due to misalignment of the cervical spine
- Tingling pain and numbness in the arms and hands, related to spinal nerve irritation and inflammation
Prolonged screen time can also cause deconditioning of certain muscles in your neck, chest, and upper back. This makes it difficult to maintain good posture, with your ears directly over the shoulders, which can worsen the symptoms associated with tech neck.
Treating and preventing tech neck
Depending on your symptoms, effective treatment for tech neck often requires a multipronged approach. For instance, muscular strain associated with tech neck, typically responds well to rest, guided physical therapy, and massage. Dr. Michels can also perform Trigger Point Injections to help to alleviate severe muscle pain and tightness.
For irritated joints, Dr. Michels may recommend medial branch nerve blocks/rhizotomies to alleviate the pain. For irritated discs and spinal nerves (which can cause pain radiating into the arms and hands), Dr. Michels may recommend an epidural steroid injection to reduce inflammation and pain.
An important component of treating as well as preventing tech neck is correcting the poor posture that stresses and strains your neck, which may include:
- Tips on how to keep your phone or screen at eye level
- Learning stretching exercises to relieve the strain on your neck muscles
- Developing good overall posture and learning to recognize what that feels like
Dr. Michels’ primary goal is to develop a treatment strategy that relieves your current symptoms, allows continued enjoyment of today’s screen technology, and helps prevent future problems with tech neck.
For outstanding care that’s always focused on relieving your pain and restoring your quality of life, schedule a visit with Dr. Michels today.